The Whole Armor of God: Part 1

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The few verses in the close of the epistle to the Ephesians (chap. 6:14-18) will give us the basis of the thoughts I desire to present to my readers. They are found at the end of the epistle which sets us already in the "heavenlies in Christ" (J.N.D. Trans.).
We read in chapter 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace," following the blessed calling of God in which He has set us before Him as sons, holy and without blame before Him in love, and accepted in the Beloved (vv. 3-6). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved."
We enter this wonderful sphere of blessing by redemption through blood, as Israel was delivered by the passover and Red Sea. Then Christ has been raised up as man and seated on high (vv. 19, 20); the people have been quickened, raised up together, and seated in Him in the heavenlies (chap. 2:1-6).
In chapter 3:10 we read, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." Thus her testimony reaches the hosts on high, even at this present time. The angels see the Church in Christ Jesus; the world is to see His epistle in her here below!
When we come to chapter 6:12, we find our warfare is carried on in the same sphere. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood," as Joshua and Israel in an earthly Canaan, "but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [heavenly, margin] places."
Thus, whether for our blessings, our position, the Church's testimony, or our warfare, the scene is all in that sphere into which we have entered already "in Christ." And this is really what our Canaan is. We are passing on to be in the Father's house on high, where no conflict will ever be; but we are already in an order of blessing where we have to fight the Lord's battles against His enemies, and this is the true normal conflict of the Lord's Host.
It will readily be seen that this armor of God is more that which enables us to stand against the foe, as we read, "That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." It is not so much an aggressive warfare as a defensive. It relates too to the condition of the heart and conscience which, when good, leaves the foe without resource, and our souls are thus maintained consciously in the joy of our heavenly position as witnesses and soldiers of a glorified Christ. Do we suppose if our souls are bent on maintaining such a position, that Satan will allow us to pass? We shall never be so conscious of the depth of his wiles as then. Alas! what mournful instances crowd upon our memory, of those who once ran well, who fought valiantly in the Lord's battles, and fell before the foe! Some part of his armor wanting; some joint let loose; some moment of an ungirded loin, and the ever watchful foe sent home his wile, and the bravest have fallen. Alas! what dishonor has been heaped upon His name; what shame and confusion of face have followed, when some active servant, some bright and blessed witness, prostrate before the foe, proves that none are secure in this solemn yet blessed battlefield, when lacking the condition of soul unfolded in this "whole armor of God."
O beloved friends, let us be warned, deeply, truly warned—yea, forewarned, and therefore forearmed. If Peter had believed the words of Jesus, he would have deeply mistrusted himself, and failure perhaps would never have ensued. How He watches our hearts all the way, warning us, reminding us of the dangers and snares, at times permitting us to go to the brink of some awful chasm where some allowed and unjudged sin was leading us. He allows us, as it were, to see the abyss for a moment, and makes our hearts shudder, and then turn to cling more closely to Him—to adore that unwearying, unwavering love which thus deals with these treacherous hearts, that we may not fall and dishonor Him. Blessed, adorable Lord and Savior! Who but Thyself would bear with us? Who would—who could keep us as Thou?
And oh, was there ever a day in which Thy keeping was so needed as this? Hardly a book we take up, hardly a thought which is current, but carries some devil's wile concealed. Lord, keep the young in this infidel day. Preserve the tender, impressible heart from the corruption of man, from the lie of Satan which circulates around. Give grace to parents to make their home a place where the young heart turns instinctively to find it truly "home" that they may not seek in the outer world what they should find there—the genial warmth of a parent's watchful heart, the confidence of his trusting child. Walk before your children, dear parents, and present Christ to them thus. Win their hearts to Jesus by preaching Him in your words and ways.
The first thing which is presented to us in this armor of God, is the inward condition of our souls. There can be no divine activity until the heart is right with God. We may be heavenly men and know the things which are freely given to us of God, without this heart of a Christian soldier—a heart to which the truth of God has been applied in such a way that all is broken which would hinder the vessel being used. Hence nearly all the thoughts we have in this armor are what we would term subjective truth. He casts us back upon our own condition, but He never does this until we have been fully established by His grace in Christ. When this is so, we can bear anything; we can bear to be broken to pieces in conscience and heart by His word, just because this experimental work never gives us a thought of uncertainty as to our soul's acceptance with Him. It is just because we are fully accepted in Christ that this dealing comes; we would not have such dealing with our hearts if it were not so. Many bitter experiences come before peace with God and redemption are known. Then comes another order of dealings, because of this new and blessed relationship and place before Him.
We read, "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." Now there is no truth in the world but the Word of God. You find doubts. and darkness, and ignorance, and pride—plenty of speculations of man's mind which, because he is a creature, never can rise superior to the level of a creature's mind. The Word of God, being the revelation of the truth, sets everything in its right place and relationship with Him. It tells me what God is as revealed in Christ; it tells me what He is to a poor, lost, ruined world. It tells me what man is, what Satan is, what sin is; what His righteousness is regarding sin; what His love to the sinner. All is unfolded in the Word of God. But man cannot bear to be thus judged morally, and set where it sets him; hence every effort is made to weaken its force, to destroy the poor man's faith in the living Word of God. Nevertheless, one who has tasted it in any little measure, finds in it (as the deep, cooling draft of water to the soul of a thirsty wanderer) that which satisfies his heart and sets his burdened conscience at rest. In it he finds and learns his Savior by the power and teaching of the Spirit of God.
When this living Word is applied to the heart and conscience, and the whole inner man curbed and broken, his loins are thus girded with the truth. The loins are that portion of the body that need to be braced up and supported in conflict and toil. Wherever we find Scripture speak of girded loins, we are supposed to be in the place of conflict and weariness, or of exercises of heart. As the Lord said to Job, "Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me." Job 38:33Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:3).
When the loins are braced up with the truth, the affections are curbed and the will broken, so that there is a firmness of tone imparted to the whole man. He finds his way strewed with those things after which his natural heart would go out; but "the truth" has judged their value in God's sight, as well as in his, and they are refused.
In this battlefield, where defeat is ruinous and where retreat is impossible, how deeply important that not even for one instant the girdle should be relaxed. A moment of carnal ease or fancied security, and the heart is entrapped into some action which years of bitter tears cannot recall. How we find too that even if the will was not active in going after the desires of the flesh and of the mind, the loins were ungirded and failure ensued. See David when he should have been with girded loin as a man of war in that day, in the battlefield at the time when kings go forth to battle; the heart was thus an easy prey to a watchful foe. Oh, what a bitter fall ensued in the matter of the wife of Uriah! Years of sorrow followed, and consequences which no repentance could ever efface from his house, marked the sure and certain righteous government of God.
Look at Peter in the garden of Gethsemane. No sense of his own total want of strength in the face of Satan. No thought of Satan's power. He was sleeping with ungirded loin when he should have watched and prayed; he was in conflict when his Lord and Master was submitting Himself as a lamb for the slaughter. How had He (blessed Lord!) spent His time? In an agony of prayer. He was praying when Peter was sleeping; He was submitting when Peter was fighting. But what a sad conflict it was—flesh fighting with flesh, and with the carnal weapons of men! Then following Christ "afar off"—then denying with oaths—then the bitter tears!
How we see too that in this heavenly warfare a moment of victory is a solemn and dangerous one for the soul. We are never so near defeat as when we have conquered. The very success of the spiritual man takes him away from the sense of full and complete dependence. It is an intoxicating moment, so to speak, when the heart feels and knows that God has been using one in the battlefield. We are inclined to look upon it as our success; self is once more aroused, and the enemy has that on which he can work. David had conquered, and David was just crowned in Hebron. His first thought was of the ark, but his success did not serve to keep him a dependent man. He consults his "captains," and places the ark of God on a "new cart" instead of on the "shoulders" of the Levites. How the failure of a spiritual man involves others in its sorrow; the "breach upon Uzzah" told this sad tale. Tells too how the moment of success is the moment to distrust oneself more deeply than ever, a moment to brace up the loins more firmly with the truth.
The time will come when we may let the heart go free, when conscience will not be needed, and there shall be girded loins no more forever. In heaven we shall be able to let the heart go free. Here never! If you tire for a moment in watchfulness, and relax the loins, the heart wanders into something that is not Christ. Then comes the reaction, and we tire of self more than ever. It has sprung up again and defiled the heart.
It will not do to have the truth merely known, but it must be the truth applied; and then with girded loin and broken will the heart goes on with God, and Satan's wiles avail not. God's truth has revealed all that is in heaven, and has revealed God's heart on earth. It has judged all in this evil world; every motive and spring of action is laid bare by Him who was and is the living Word of God.
He came into this world—the Truth Himself—that He might bear witness to the truth. Not one single motive ever governed ours that governs His. The eternal Son of God became a man; He walked with God for three and thirty years, never doing His own will, perfect as it ever was. "Not My will but Thine be done." He met Satan at the beginning of His path of service. The enemy came up to seduce Him from the path of obedience. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Own me, said the enemy, and all shall be Thine. As God, He could have put aside his power in a moment. But this would not do for us. As man in obedience, and by obedience He bound the strong man. As man in obedience He was hungry. To work a miracle would be an easy task for Him who created the world. But no! He came to obey; and while it was no harm to be hungry, it was harm to satisfy that hunger without a word from God. "Man," He says, "shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." I have come to obey. The living Word, in obedience on earth; perfect Man before God; perfect God to man. He was the truth, and the truth is now embodied in the words (not merely word) of God. Scripture is the words of God—the intelligible words disclosing all His mind. "Which things also we speak," says the Apostle, "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth."